Close to the head of Glen Lyon in Perthshire a little side road crosses pine studded moorland to a huge concrete dam that holds back the waters of Loch an Diamh. On either side of the dam two big hills rise up; Stuchd an Lochain, 3150 ft/960m, the peak of the small loch, and opposite it, across the waters of the loch, Meall Buidhe 3058ft, the yellow hill.
Most Munro-baggers combine these two hills by climbing Stuchd an Lochain, returning to their starting point by the Loch an Daimh dam, climbing Meall Buidhe and returning by the same route. I have to admit I’ve always thought that a rather disrespectful way to treat hills, the method of the list-ticker, but hey, I’ve done it myself and it’s perhaps only when you’ve climbed all 284 Munros that you can afford the luxury of visiting the hills as individuals, taking time to explore their corries and ridges more fully.
I’ve also climbed these hills as part of a circuit of Loch an Daimh, starting and finishing at the dam. This makes a superb circular walk and adds an extra Corbett, Sron a’ Choire Chnapanich, 2746ft/837m to the itinerary. As a bonus, the head of Loch an Daimh is a wonderful spot, splendidly remote and atmospheric. It is a big day though…
Last weekend I chose Stuchd an Lochain for one of my walks on the BBC’s Adventure Show. With the leaves on the trees beginning to turn, the hill slopes taking on a shade of burnished bronze, the wild geese heading south and the red deer stags at the rut, the season is definitely on the turn. I hate to mention it but in less than a month we’ll be turning our clocks back! That means shorter days, and I wanted to describe a shorter hill day day for the series. Stuchd an Lochain was ideal.
The mountain sits near the head of Glen Lyon, Scotland’s longest and, some would say, loveliest glen. From Loch Lyon to Aberfeldy the glen runs for over 20 miles, its slopes rising from green fields, steep and wooded, to over three thousand feet on both sides. And the whole glen reeks of history.
Legend claims the great Celtic hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill (or Fingal) came here in the third century with his band of Fianna warriors. They set up their “duns”, or fortresses, along the length of the River Lyon. Two thousand years ago, Emperor Ceasar Augustus sent an emissary to Scotland, to Dun Geal, near modern Fortingall. The emissary’s wife gave birth to a baby, and they called him Pontius Pilate. He went on to become the fifth procurator of Judea and ordered the crucifixion of Christ.
Stuchd an Lochain can also be climbed from Cashlie at the western end of the Stronuich Reservoir in Glen Lyon via the Allt Cashlie which leads to the plateau between Sron Chona Choirein and the summit, but this route of ascent lacks the character of the north side of the hill.
Better to start from the Loch an Daimh dam, or more correctly, the Giorra Dam. There were once two lochs here, Loch Giorra and Loch an Damh, separated by a large strip of land where there was a farmhouse and a tract of woodland. These were submerged below the waters when the dam was built and the waters raised, turning the two lochs into one. The Hydro Board has chosen to keep the name Giorra for the name of the dam, although the OS appears to prefer Loch an Daimh.
From the south end of the dam a faint path climbs grassy slopes south to reach the ridge above Coire Ban. A line of fence posts can be followed west to Creag an Fheadain from where a descent into a bealach is followed by an easy climb to Sron Choma Choirein. A broad mossy ridge now leads round the cliffs above Lochan nan Cat to the summit where, in 1590, a local laird called Mad Colin Campbell of Meggernie, apparently took a perverse delight in chasing a herd of goats over the edge into the lochan below. But Campbell really earned his nickname as a madman when he tried to throw the shepherd over the edge as well…
If you get as good a day as we did you’ll be blessed with a full 360 degree panorama, with views of hills ranging from the Cairngorms to Ben Nevis, and the Buachaille to Ben Lawers. This summit has to be one of the finest viewpoints in the southern highlands.
Map: OS 1:50,000 Sheet 51
Distance: About 6 miles
Approx Time: 3-5 hours
Start/Finish: Loch Giorra Dam (GR 510436)
Route: From the south side of the dam follow a track for a short distance to where a cairned route leaves the track and climbs up the slopes of Coire Ban. Continue climbing this muddy and eroded path to reach the ridge above the corrie. Follow the ridge, and old fence posts, to Creag an Fheadain, then SSW to Sron Chona Choirein then W and NW to the summit slopes of Stuchd an Lochain. Return the same way